Rose only slept for a few hours that night. No one else had felt like leaving after the Longbottoms left. Staying together made them feel like they were somehow able to still be there for their friends, despite their absence. A few people had wandered off to sleep in the bedrooms, but many of them had ended up crashing on the various surfaces in the living room. It was half past six the following morning and Rose couldn't have slept any longer if she'd wanted to. She had gotten up, made herself a cup of tea, and was now sitting out on the patio, the windows open and a breeze coming in as the sun started to rise over the rolling hills in the distance. There was a light sprinkling of rain that made the air smell fresher. Rose hadn't heard anything from Erin yet. She hadn't heard from her parents either, and she wasn't sure they were even aware of the situation. They had gone out with Harry and Ginny the previous evening and they were all expected to return to the manor by ten o'clock to prep for lunch and the Quidditch match. She wasn't even sure if that would all be happening now. It felt wrong to just go about her day knowing her best friend could be grieving.
She closed her eyes as she cradled her tea in her hands, enjoying the warmth that seeped into her fingers as she leaned back in the wicker chair with her feet up on the coffee table. The breeze from outside had a chill in it that was odd for that time of year, but Rose assumed it had something to do with the rain. She'd only worn shorts and a tank top as pajamas the night before and was thankful she had thought to grab the button up shirt that had been lying across the back of the couch. She assumed one of the boys had discarded it the previous evening.
Rose was pulled out of her thoughts by the sound of the patio door creaking open and the soft pad of bare feet moving towards her. She wasn't too surprised to see the bright red hair of her cousin Molly. She had it pulled up in a messy bun on the top of her head, and she looked like she hadn't slept at all. Her eyes and nose were red and she kept sniffling as she sat on the loveseat with her own mug of tea, pulling an afghan over her legs. Rose watched her younger cousin for a moment. Molly had always been the most sensitive of all the cousins. She and Lucy were both rather quiet and reserved, but Lucy had a tougher shell. Molly was the type of person to cry at the birth of a child, or the sight of a puppy. She had a natural disposition to be empathetic to those around her. Rose wasn't shocked to see her in her current state. She also knew her cousin well enough to realize she needed to process her emotions, and a bit of a heart to heart was the best way to do that.
"Did you sleep at all?" Rose asked in a soft voice. Molly just shook her head slightly and took a sip of her tea. They remained in silence for a few moments before Molly finally spoke up.
"You know, when Mum's dad died, I thought it was the saddest I could ever feel. It was the first time I had ever experienced loss so clearly. But I was only eight when Grandpa died. What's that compared to what Alice and Erin and Ethan are dealing with right now? They’re all more than twice as old as I was when he died. I can't imagine what type of void that will leave when she…"
Molly let her sentence trail off, unsure how to voice what they knew, in all likelihood, would be happening soon. Rose chose to believe that no news was good news, but she knew it would only last for so long.
"I know Erin is especially close with her, Rose. And I know she has a hard time expressing and accepting her emotions." Rose let out a small smile at how easy her best friend was to read.
"I know this will be hard on her," Molly continued, "but I don't want us to forget that it'll be hard on the others as well. Alice has had a hard time of it since she left Hogwarts. She hasn't been loving her job at the Ministry, and Ethan…" she paused for a moment and looked as if she might start crying, and not for the first time, Rose gathered.
"He's just finished school, and he's so excited to start Auror training. This is going to be hard on the whole family."
Her words were not a surprise at all. Molly always managed to think of everyone. She saw the whole forest and not just the trees like Rose was prone to do. She actively cared for other people and went out of her way to make sure the unincluded were brought into the fold, and the forgotten remembered.
"We'll take care of them, Molly. We always take care of our own."
Molly finally looked over at Rose and gave her a watery smile before her eyes dropped down to take in Rose's attire.
"Are you two dating then?" she asked.
Rose looked at her questioningly, not sure who she was asking about or why. Molly answered part of her question by nodding towards the shirt she was wearing.
"That's Scorpius's, isn't it? I could have sworn he was wearing it last night."
Rose looked in surprise at the shirt she wore. She hadn't even realized, but now that she thought about it, she noticed Molly was right. The thought made her happier than she thought appropriate. Rose struggled to come up with an explanation, even though it was a simple one.
"I've seen boyfriends give girlfriends their shirts before. Victoire wears Teddy's all the time, so I just wondered," Molly explained before taking another sip of her tea. Rose finally found her voice.
"No, we're not. I just found it on the back of the couch. I knew it would be chilly out here."
Molly accepted this answer. She wasn't overly inquisitive, not like Lucy, who could badger you for hours about a single topic.
They sat together in silence for a quarter of an hour before they heard the sound of Apparition from out front around seven o'clock. They both hurried to their feet and into the house, desperate for some form of news. They entered just in time to see their Aunt Ginny doing the same. She looked exhausted, but the just gotten out of bed kind, rather than the up all night look that Rose and Molly were sporting. Ginny gave them both a sad smile as they entered the room.
"Morning, girls," she said in a whisper. Al walked out of the kitchen having heard his mother enter the house.
"Hello, sweetheart," she said as she turned and greeted her son. He didn't look like he had gotten much sleep either. Last night, he and Scorpius had gone up to his room after sitting with Rose till almost 3 in the morning. Rose wouldn't be surprised if he hadn't slept much more than she had.
"Hey, Mum. Any news?" Al asked as he handed her a cup of tea.
Ginny gave him a sad smile as tears gathered in her eyes and she rested her free hand on her son's cheek.
"Yeah.." she said in a shaky voice. Al closed his eyes as the implication of his mother's demeanor hit him and he pulled her into his arms in a firm hug. Rose and Molly clung to each other as well, silent tears flowing from every eye. August Longbottom may have lived a long and full life, but that didn't make the loss much easier. She was dearly loved by all who knew her, and Rose would miss the old woman's brash demeanor. Eventually, Ginny managed to regain her composure and pulled back from her son, wiping her eyes and taking a calming sip of tea.
"Your dad is with Neville, helping sort out the details. The kids are helping Hannah with things at the inn. They can't exactly close during the summer."
"You're serious?" Al asked, looking somewhat upset by this news. "Isn't there anyone else that can step in?"
"They've been understaffed all summer. And honestly, I think Hannah just wants to keep herself busy and you know Erin's exactly the same way."
"Is there anything we can do to help?" Molly asked through her tears.
"I'm not sure," Ginny responded. "For now, just be prepared to be there for them. They're going to need you. All of you." Al squeezed his mother into his side, his arm still around her shoulders. He heaved a heavy sigh before letting go and turning to head upstairs.
"Well, looks like you lot had quite the slumber party," Ginny commented, taking in all the people scattered around her family room. Rose couldn't help but let out a small chuckle as she took in the scene. Lily and Charlotte were sleeping top and tail on one of the couches, with Louis and Caleb doing the same on the one across from them. Lucy, Jill, Eva, and Dom were all spread out on the floor. Hugo and Bobby occupied an armchair each.
"James and the other boys all crashed in his room, and Roxy and Violet are in Lily's." Rose told her aunt. Ginny nodded her head in recognition of her words, and then began to pick up all of the discarded food and trash. They could hear movement coming from upstairs, and Rose quickly discarded what she now knew to be Scorpius's shirt, laying it in its previous position on the couch. She and Molly set about helping Ginny and soon enough, others began to stir. By eight-thirty, everyone in the house was up and had eaten breakfast. Harry came home to find most of them still seated around the dining room table and filled them in on the details. The funeral would take place the following weekend.
"I'm sure most of you aren't even feeling up to it by the look of things," Harry continued, "but I think it's best if we put Quidditch off. At least til later in the summer. Agreed?" Everyone nodded their heads in assent. Al looked around the table, catching the eyes of all the boys. He nodded, then stood as the rest followed.
"We're heading over to the Leaky," he announced to his parents.
"All of you?" Harry asked skeptically. "Don't you think that's a lot of visitors to have at once, especially at a time like this?"
"We're not going to visit, Dad," James chimed in. "We're going to work." He bent down to press a quick peck to Violet's lips, who blushed violently at the public display of affection, and followed his younger brother out of the room. Harry had a look of pride on his face as he watched the boys trail out of the house. The only ones to stay behind were Bobby and Hugo, who explained that they were going to make sure the house was put back in order.
"We ate most of your food, Aunt Ginny, so we figured you and some of the girls would need to make a run to the market and we didn't want to saddle you with all the work here as well," Hugo elaborated.
"That's lovely, dear," she said absentmindedly. She was in the middle of questioning who she assumed was now her eldest son's new girlfriend. Harry was focused on Violet and his wife, a grin growing on his face.
Later in the evening, the food had been replenished and the house had been put back in order. Ron and Hermione came over with dinner for everyone. Violet and Bobby had gone home to see their parents and siblings, as they were close with Hannah and Neville as well. Charlotte was muggle born so Harry had taken her home by side-along after lunch. Dom and Eva had gone to check in on the boys, Ethan in particular, and hadn't come back.
"You should be proud of your boys, Ginny," Hermione said over dinner. "We stopped by the Leaky earlier to see if Hannah needed anything, and those young men had it all under control. Al was barking orders from the kitchen and James was making sure everything got covered out front. It was brilliant."
Ginny looked thrilled that they were doing such a wonderful job of stepping up. Neville was Al's godfather after all. They had always had a close bond, not to mention his close friendship with Erin.
"Ethan's really been pulling his weight as well," Ron chimed in. "He was helping Neville get all the details in order and didn't seem like he planned on stopping anytime soon. We actually got Neville to agree to a nap, seeing as Ethan had everything under control."
"I've been impressed by Ethan too," Harry added. "I offered to let him start Auror training a week later since Monday's the firsts day, but he wouldn't hear it. Says his Gram would of kicked his arse if he did something like that."
There was general amusement around the table at this statement. Even Molly, who had been having a hard time not crying all day, let out a light chuckle.
A commotion was heard at the front door and most of the boys who had left for the Leaky Cauldron that morning filed into the house and to everyone's surprise, Erin was with them. Rose jumped up to embrace her best friend with tears in her eyes.
"I'm so sorry, Erin," she whispered as she held her.
"I'm alright," was all Erin mumbled in return. Rose pulled back to look at her. She seemed almost void of all emotion, and she didn't even look close to crying. Her wavy blond hair didn't look like it had seen a brush since the previous morning. Rose glanced at Al. He had a concerned look on his face as he stood next to Erin, watching her.
"Are you all hungry or did you eat there?" Ginny called from the dining room.
"I'm starving, actually," said Erin, and she made to join the others eating dinner.
Rose turned to Al with a question on her face as Scorpius joined them while the rest of the boys headed in to eat.
"She's not ok, is she?" Rose asked.
Al shook his head as he continued to watch Erin, who was acting as if nothing had happened in the past 24 hours to cause her any pain.
"I don't think it's hit her yet," Scorpius said. "When we showed up we sent them all to get some sleep and I haven't seen her bat an eye since she got up. She was a bit of a mess when we got there though. Not crying, mind, but extremely out of it."
Rose knew it was going to be a hard road for her friend, and she wasn't sure how they were going to help her get through it.
~ ~ ~ ~ ~
The boys continued to help out at the pub everyday the following week and before they knew it, the funeral had come and gone and life would be going back to normal, or as normal as it could for the Longbottom family. Molly and Arthur had hosted the wake at the Burrow, giving Hannah a much needed break from hosting duties. Erin had stayed stoic all week and Rose had yet to see her shed a tear. The most emotion she'd shown was when she snapped at Al for asking how she was doing one too many times.
They had decided to have the annual friends and family gathering and Quidditch match the week before they were to leave for Hogwarts. James was back in training full time and his first match would be the day before they left, but he'd managed to secure the weekend off so he could participate. Rose was starting to get antsy roughly two weeks before term started. Their Hogwarts letters were due any day, and the suspense was killing her. Not only was she having her usual nerves about her grades, but she was dying to know if she had been chosen as Head Girl. Professor McGonagall had hinted as much, but she had no guarantee. More than she wanted to know her fate, she was praying to Merlin that Scorpius would be Head Boy. She felt he truly deserved it, and it would mean the world to him to see someone other than his closest friends place so much faith in him.
She was in the middle of her usual morning routine, sitting on her porch swing with a book in her lap and trying to read despite the many thoughts running sprints around her mind, when she noticed an owl coming over the trees on the edge of their property.
She got up and went into the house yelling for her brother.
"Hugo! Hugh, wake up! Our letters are here!"
She had made it up the stairs and was now banging on his door.
"You do realize I don't care nearly as much as you do, right?" He hollered back in a groggy voice.
"I don't really care right now," she responded with an edge of panic in her voice. "Mum and Dad aren't here and I can't do this on my own."
"Can't do what? Open a letter? You do this every summer Rose! Why are you so worked up?"
She knew he was protesting, but she could also hear him getting out of bed and wandering around his room. He finally opened his door to reveal his disheveled appearance. His dark red hair was sticking up in all directions, and his t-shirt was on inside out. He rubbed his eyes before looking at his sister's pleading expression.
"Don't worry, I'm coming," he grumbled, and followed her downstairs. They arrived in the kitchen just in time to see the owl swoop in through the open window above the sink.
Rose stood gripping the back of one of the kitchen chairs as her brother took their letters from the owl before it flew off again. She watched him weigh them in his hands, testing to see if hers held the desired Head Girl pin. He looked up at her, unsure of what to say.
"They don't feel that much different from each other, to be honest," he said sadly. Rose's face fell and she moved forward to grab the envelope. She tore it open and pulled the parchment out, hearing something drop onto the kitchen table. Her breath caught and she looked at her brother who had yet to open his own letter. He was looking back and forth between the pin that had fallen on the table and the letter in his hand. Rose finally looked down to see a silver and gold badge with the words “Head Girl” shining on it. She grinned before looking back at Hugo, who stood staring at his letter in puzzlement before it seemed to dawn on him.
"No way…" he said softly, before opening his own letter, much more carefully than his sister had. He pulled a red and gold pin out that was in the shape of a P with a confused look on his face. Rose just grinned more brightly.
"That's brilliant, Hugo! Congratulations!"
He continued to stare at the badge in his hand.
"Yeah… I guess so."
A grin started to grow on his face and he looked at his sister with a disbelieving expression.
"I can't say I was exactly expecting that."
"Come on Hugh, you're brilliant. They'd be fools not to make you prefect." Hugo just shrugged his shoulders and started looking through his list of school supplies as well as his exam scores from the previous year.
"I didn't do too bad, I guess," and he handed his results to his sister. He didn't have anything below an Acceptable.
Rose placed his on the table and pulled out her own exam results. She didn't have anything under an Acceptable either, and that was only in History of Magic. She never tried as hard in that class. Not only was it rather dull, but so many topics had to do with her family. You would think this would make her an expert in the subject, but it just made her slack off in most of the other topics that they covered since she could just make it up in the areas that she knew by heart.
"I was going to meet up with Bobby, Louis, and Caleb in Diagon Alley today and pick up our stuff. You want to come?"
"I have to see Scorpius."
He looked at her quizzically. She had said it without thinking and a little too eagerly for her taste.
"And Al and Erin too," she was quick to add. "They'll want to know I've been made Head Girl. Hopefully Scorpius was as well. Made Head Boy I mean," she rattled off, feeling slightly nervous under her brothers stare.
"Right," he said, a smirk growing on his face. "I'm just gonna go get ready, then."
He turned to go upstairs before turning around and walking back over to his sister, pulling her into a hug. He was a good head taller than her now so he lifted her slightly off her feet as he gripped her. Rose laughed at the rare display of sibling affection from her brother.
"I'm so proud of you, sis," he said as he plopped her back down on the floor. Rose laughed again as Hugo let go and stepped away. She slugged him lightly on the arm. "I'm proud of you too, bro." He chuckled at her before ruffling her hair and hurrying up the stairs.
She was about to get ready herself when she was distracted by the sound of the fireplace bursting into life. Rose entered the living room just in time to see a male figure tumbling out. The Slytherin stood and dusted himself off. It seemed he had forgotten to change out of his pajamas in his haste to get there. He looked up and noticed Rose standing in the kitchen doorway. She had a good idea as to why he had shown up at her house unexpectedly. She hadn't been able to stop smiling since she'd opened her letter, and his presence just solidified the smile on her face. She was certain she wouldn't be able to stop grinning all day. He took in her incredibly joyful demeanor before a brilliant smile graced his handsome face.
"Well," he said with a cheeky smirk and his hands on his hips, "aren't you doing to greet your new Head Boy?"
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